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From The Asian Reporter, V18, #35 (September 2, 2008), page 16.
Dress-up with Dadima
By Kashmira Sheth
Illustrations by Yoshiko Jaeggi
Peachtree Publishers, 2007
Hardcover, 32 pages, $16.95
By Josephine Bridges
There is a special relationship between grandmothers and granddaughters, and the very first page of this lovely book draws us into one. The dimpled narrator, Rupa, a girl whose age hasnít reached two digits, smiles lovingly at a beautiful woman with long gray hair and a dancerís physique who radiates serenity and grace as she arranges lilies, roses, and daisies in a vase. "Every day my dadima wears saris ó saris as bright and cheerful as a bouquet of wildflowers."
The next few pages are awash in the jewel-like tones of saris: cerulean, spring green, aqua, crimson, violet, black, and periwinkle. At first the saris are confined within the frames of the illustrations, two to a page, but they are simply too enthusiastic to stay put, especially the violet and periwinkle.
Rupa, too, is enthusiastic in her questions about saris, which Dadima answers not just patiently but thoughtfully: "But donít you get tired of wearing them?" "What can you do with a sari?" "Which one is your favorite, Dadima?" "Can you show us how to wrap a sari?"
No, Dadima never gets tired of wearing saris. She has three favorites. And thereís a special page at the end called, "How to Wrap a Sari," with the real Rupa, now a grown woman, modelling. But itís what you can do with a sari that gives this book wings: everything from wrapping up seashells collected at the beach to camouflaging the grandmother and granddaughter in the Gir Jungle.
When author Kashmira Sheth was young in India, she "believed that every girl wore a sari when she grew up." She is an award-winning author of young adult fiction, but she has never written a picture book before. Yoshiko Jaeggi grew up in Japan, and her illustrations have appeared in a magazine and in educational texts, but My Dadima Wears a Sari is also her first picture book.
You wouldnít know that the author and illustrator are newcomers to the field. My Dadima Wears a Sari is mostly dialogue ó no easy thing to manage ó and itís all an entirely believable conversation. The watercolor illustrations arenít just a perfect complement to the story, they are a story in themselves, with borders of flowers, raindrops, hummingbirds, and leopard spots, not to mention a jungle in a sun shower, a cyclone of saris, and three sepia-toned photos that take us back to when Dadima was Rupaís age and a young bride.
You really need to see this one for yourself.